Sexual harassment in clubs

Op-eds Opinions

As soon as you read the headline, maybe you rolled your eyes and sighed, “Oh here we go. Yet another stubborn feminist, giving us yet another rant . . .” However, I speak on behalf of all when I say sexual harassment in nightclubs must stop. Please note this is my pure opinion and is relating to my own experiences in night-clubs as a heterosexual girl.

What is meant by “harassment”? Very simply, harassment is touching without consent. The Canadian Labour Code provides a useful working definition: “behaviour that intimidates or humiliates another.” Sexual harassment is a crime that has been normalized and excused as part of getting drunk, in addition to the notion that a club is supposedly a place to “hook up.” Some may also assume such crimes are normal because of promiscuity.

I should not have to go into a club expecting to be groped, or feeling obliged to make sexual contact with a boy simply because he buys me a drink or asks me to dance. If a boy (when I am not giving him signals or paying him any attention) were to grope my behind or attempt to “under-handle” me (a game where boys stand behind girls and attempt to put their fingers inside them for the sake of climbing up their invented social hierarchy), I ought to be shocked. I shouldn’t have to think, “Oh, here we go again, just ‘normal’ behaviour.” Neither should I be told by the club’s bouncers that “boys will be boys.”

If a girl is dressed provocatively I don’t think that she should make a fuss if she gets briefly looked up and down—I don’t consider that to be harassment. If I dress showing my legs and cleavage, it’s because I want them on show; I want boys to notice me (but not feel me up). Unless boys walk around with their eyes closed, they are going to look at sexily-dressed girls. If a boy took his shirt off in a club and walked around with his six-pack on show, would you have a look? I know I would!

A line is crossed, however, when boys leer, and make girls feel uncomfortable. Boys do not have the right to touch a girl or ogle her simply because she is dressed provocatively—she is not “asking for it.”

If your dance partner is not reciprocating intimate contact—as in not grinding against your body, stroking you, nor putting their head towards yours with the clear intention of kissing you back—then you certainly do not have the right to touch their private parts, or corner them into kissing you.

I recently had someone corner me by forcing his face into mine. When my head was turned away, he started to kiss my neck and shoulders because he couldn’t reach my mouth. He patronized me, saying, “Haha, you’re so cute. Do you not like kissing or something?” At this point, I hadn’t even said “No” to him. Nonetheless, I found it insulting that he should have to wait for my verbal non-consent. Moreover, I should not have to consider myself “rude” or “frigid” by saying “No.” Body language should tell you enough. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Harassment doesn’t only mean touching someone’s private parts. I don’t care how drunk someone is, or how attracted they are to me; whipping out your insatiable libido is unacceptable.

So, why do we go clubbing? I go to wind down with my friends, and sometimes, yes, to “hook up” with someone. Personally, that means to flirt with someone, make eye-contact, put my arms around his neck, or waist, and maybe kiss. I’m not suggesting that making sexual contact is amoral if that’s what you’re after.

Sexual desire is integral to human nature. But, so is the ability to restrain it—not everyone is a crazed sex-machine when they knock back a few drinks. The dance floor is not a place to revert to primeval mentalities. An absence of basic civil manners, for example failing to verbally ask permission to touch another person’s body, is neither bold nor impressive.

Conversely, it seems unfair for girls to claim harassment if they’re, for example, grinding their nether-regions against a boy’s body or putting their hands down his trousers. If both parties are signalling that they’re into one another, fine.  But how do you not misread signals? Here are my suggestions:

If you want to be kissed, make it obvious; don’t linger and persist if you get nothing back. If you want your private parts touched, maybe you should be the one who guides your partner’s hands there. Don’t assume you have the right to touch or that fewer boundaries between you and your partner exist because you are being intimate. As I see it, romance does not have to be dead, and actually, nice guys do not finish last.